STAY HOOKED: Using the Power of Positivity in the Roping Pen

Borrowing A Horse

There are a lot of days where roping just doesn’t go as planned.  We all enter the arena with the intention of riding out a champion.  However, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.  Since I have been in Arizona, I have had a lot of good days and a lot of bad days.  Whether the days are cloudy or sunny, I am thankful for the people that are in my corner to encourage me when I’m down and celebrate with me when I am winning.

A phrase that I have coined over the last couple of months, thanks to a good friend, is “STAY HOOKED”.  A few weeks ago, I went to a jackpot in Wickenburg, AZ.  I had only planned on entering the last pot of the day, so I paid my entries and then went to the pickup to relax while I waited.  It was a beautiful day, so I had the pickup door open, my feet propped up, and was casually surfing social media.  Meanwhile, my friend was sitting in the passenger seat doing the same.

All of a sudden, he sat up and yelled, “MADDALENA!”

“What?!” I responded, startled to say the least.


Sleepily, I told him that I wasn’t roping in this roping…I was only roping in the last roping.

“Well, I just heard your name,” he said.

I sauntered over to the office and just about the time I got there, I heard them calling my name again.  Apparently, there had only been a handful of teams that had caught in the previous roping, so it went a lot faster than I had thought it would.  I had already been turned out twice.

Now, I am a stickler for being places on time.  I hate being late and I have never been turned out…until now.  I asked the ladies at the office if here was any way I could get my runs back, and they agreed to roll me down and let me rope with my partners at the end of the round.

Let the hustle begin!

I rushed over to the trailer and cinched up my horse, loped a few quick circles, and backed into the box to run a steer with what was supposed to be my third partner.  I missed that steer.

I knew I had to shake it off, so I took a breath and prepared myself mentally for my next run by sitting behind the head box and focusing on the cattle.

I was up again in another 15 teams and I made a good run with that partner.  On to the second arena we went to rope our second steer.  It was a good draw, but the barrier didn’t work.  I hadn’t even left the box and the buzzer sounded.  We made a good run, but the plus five on our time was going to hurt us a little.  I watched the flagger go over and check the eye, make some adjustments, and then the next team rode into the box.

My partner and I both asked the flagger to knock the barrier off our time since it clearly was a malfunction, but he wouldn’t budge.  I thought it was a lost cause until about 10 minutes later when they called my name and told me to go rope another steer in that pen to make up for the barrier malfunction.  Now, I could have just kept my time, but I knew the cattle pretty well and I knew that I could make a clean run.  So, I backed in the box one more time, called for my steer, and we laid down a clean run to put us 16th high team back.

Meanwhile, I had laid down two really solid runs with a girl and we were sitting 10th high call, but I still had one more partner to rope with in the first round.

It was my first partner of the day that I had been turned out with earlier.  I backed into the box, called for my steer, got a great start…and waved it off.

What a disappointment!

I apologized to my partner, an older gentleman, and was shocked by his reply.

“You know, if you would have shown up when you were supposed to, we would have drawn better.  Instead, we had to run the last steer of the day when the cattle were tired.”

I’m not going to lie, I was fairly taken aback.  I apologized, but he kept on with the negativity.  He even went as far as bad mouthing me right in front of my friends, as if I wasn’t even there.  Feeling down, I went out to the parking lot.  I prayed and petted my horse and just tried to collect my thoughts and get my head straight for the high teams.

About that time, my friend walked up.  “You ok, Maddalena?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m good.  That guy was just onery as all get up.  I get it.  I was late.  But I did get us another steer.  That’s just roping sometimes.  Everyone makes mistakes.”  I kept trying to justify things in my head…clearly overthinking it and straying away from where my thoughts needed to be: the high teams.

Lacey and Solo, 3rd Place NTR Roping. Wickenburg, AZ

That is when he stopped me.  “Shake it off,” he said.  “You have two high team runs.  It’s been a crazy day and you’re still in it.  This is YOUR roping.  STAY HOOKED!”

I ended up winning 3rd in that roping and won my first Arizona buckle.

A week later, I entered the World Series Qualifier in Buckeye, AZ.  I had some good partners lined out, but as the day progressed, it wasn’t looking good for me.  The first two ropings didn’t pan out.  But then the #8 roping rolled around and my luck started to change.  I ended up 2nd high call with $23,000 on the line.

I tell you what, I was a nervous wreck!  That was the most money I had ever had the opportunity to rope for so far in my roping career.  My palms were sweaty.  My heart was pounding like a phone book in a dryer.  I could see my friend walking towards me through the crowd of people that had gathered to watch us all rope for big money.

“You’ve come this far,” he said.  “Go out there and just make a run.  This is YOUR roping, Lace.  STAY HOOKED!”

That afternoon, I made on of the best runs I have made in a long time.  Unfortunately, my partner had a little trouble on his end and we ended up slipping a leg and taking 9th.  But, I rode out of that arena with a huge smile on my face and my head held high.  I didn’t crack under pressure.I made a good run for big money.  I STAYED HOOKED!

Now, I could bore you with stories on how the phrase “STAY HOOKED” has gotten me through all sorts of mental barriers the last couple of months, but I’ll spare you the details.  The real moral of the story here is that things go wrong.  We don’t always have good days in the roping pen.  A lot of times, it is pure luck combined with a little bit of skill that gets us to the pay window.  But you have to STAY HOOKED.  You can’t let a bad run dictate how your whole day will go.  I dropped my spoke and roped myself around the head at a jackpot a few weeks ago.  I rode out of the arena feeling like a complete dude, and then came back and won fast time in the first round and second in the roping.  You have to believe that you deserve to be there.  You have to believe that you deserve to win.  And no matter the circumstance, whether good or bad, you have to STAY HOOKED!

Terry Hodder and Lacey Maddalena. 2nd place and Fast Time of the roping. Wickenburg, AZ

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